Chicago: Days before I leave

Chicago: Days before I leave

Well, I leave tomorrow. I have slowly started packing. And by packing I mean accumulating various clean or dirty clothes and assorted knickknacks in a central location near my suitcases. The rest of the day will consist of laundry, folding, organizing and making the crucial cuts of what I won’t actually need.

While the feeling of leaving to a foreign country for 4 months hasn’t really hit me yet, I am definitely ready to go. Most of my friends from home have already left for school or are at their various study abroad locations around the globe. It is talking to them in Barcelona, Madrid, London Ect.. that has made me really excited to leave the states.

In looking ahead to my time over the next 4 months, we are asked to identify our top three goals. My goals are pretty simple. I want to meet new people – both Danish and American – and make new relationships that I will hopefully value for a long time. I want to get out of my comfort zone. Things are easier when we are comfortable. While study abroad is inherently supposed to expand one’s comfort zone and push these limits, the world is smaller these days. Technology makes keeping our homes close easier. The DIS program itself makes everything pretty easy. Most everything is laid out before you and all you really have to do is knock off some check marks and send a check. That being said, I will make a concerted effort to try everything new that I can and break off of the beaten path this semester. This will hopefully help me expand my comfort zone through my experience abroad. Finally, I want to have fun – I don’t expect to have too much trouble with this one.

I am enrolled in the international business program at DIS. I have high hopes for what I will learn about global business. I am interested in how cultural differences affect the business world. I am interested in how business is similar and dissimilar from the business world in the States. I am interested in how Brexit and Eurozone political grappling are affecting business across the continent. I am interested in how current American politics and policy affect European Business. I hope I will gain insight into these topics and more.

I do not know a single word of Danish – All the Danes know English, so I expect the foreign language won’t be a huge obstacle and, for better of for worse, I probably won’t pick up much Danish. While I would be excited to learn more about their language – I don’t see much value in learning such a narrowly spoken language in the long-term.

I am intrigued to learn more about Danish and Scandinavian culture.  They are supposedly the happiest in the world. This title is flaunted often but what does it really mean? How does one measure happiness? Can happiness really last? Rather than contemplate these ephemeral queries, I will defer to Hans Christian Andersen, who said, ‘Enjoy life. There is plenty of time to be dead.’

My time in Iceland gave me a brief look into Scandinavian culture. Generally, we found most people to be rude, uninterested and off-putting. I’m not sure how this will transfer to the Icelander’s slightly more attached relatives the Danes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are generally similar in this way. Therefore, my unexperienced and grossly premature assumption of Danish Culture is as follows. They are a generally more reserved people. They don’t value small talk or pleasantries. But once you break the surface, when you sit down for a drink, warm up with a coffee or embark on a deeper and more substantive debate or conversation – they are a very warm, honest and kind people. This is the experience I hope to have. We will see.

After this semester, I will likely be different in many ways. My hair will be longer – my goal right now is to not cut it until May. We will see if that lasts. I will be a worldly and traveled individual who is connected to the thread of culture, ancient societies and modern progress, with insights powerful enough to change the world. Just kidding. I will learn a lot, both in the classroom and out on the streets of Copenhagen and the rest of Europe and meet many awesome people and have a generally great time. I will be different, hopefully for the better, but only time will tell.


Peter Wassmann

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